Preview is great for quickly viewing PDFs; unfortunately, the same doesn’t hold true for images. It’s incredibly unintuitive. For example, in order to browse through all the images in a folder, you have to manually open the folder containing the images in the Preview menu – it literally only opens what it tells you to open. Aggravated by this stupidity, I found myself looking for a better alternative on my Mac and fortunately stumbled upon Xee.

Platform Availability: OS X 10.4 and up

Cost: It’s free! Get it here!

What it is: Xee is a lightweight image browser that allows you to quickly and easily browse through any collection of image files. Beyond viewing the files, Xee also allows you to examine EXIF data in depth, make simple edits like cropping, and even open your choice of advanced editors like Gimp or Photoshop.

How does it work: Install the application and open the image you want to view with Xee. To browse through images, simply use Command+Left and Right Arrow keys, the scroll wheel on your mouse, or two-finger swipe left/right to scroll.

Features: Incredible Image Format Compatibility – Xee can open pretty much any image format you throw at it, from your basic JPEG, to Raw Images, to even Comic Book ZIP/RAR archives.

Multitouch Gesture Support – If you love manipulating images with your Trackpad or Magic Mouse, feel free to continue doing so in Xee. You can pinch and expand to zoom in and out, rotate with your fingers, or swipe left and right to scroll through images.

Great Editing Capability – You can effortlessly copy, move, rename, crop and delete images while viewing them from inside Xee. And if you want more editing capabilities, there’s no need to go back to Finder to reopen the image in Photoshop or Gimp. You can do so directly from Xee!

Brose Images Inside Archives – If you downloaded or received an archive of images, there’s no need to uncompress it first to view the files. Simply open the archive with Xee, and it will allow you to view the images without waiting for files to uncompress or taking up more hard drive space.

Custom Keyboard Shortcuts – If you read any of my articles on HackCollege, you know that I’m a huge fan of keyboard shortcuts. Xee has largely won me over thanks to its incredible support for custom keyboard shortcuts. You can assign a shortcut to pretty much any action Xee can perform!

The Competition: There are several other programs that feature similar capabilities:

Preview – Free – Comes Included with Mac OS X

Picasa – Free – Download it here

iPhoto – $14.99 – Download it here

Like I mentioned in the introduction, Preview is far better at viewing PDFs than it is at browsing through images. Xee blows it away in this regard. While Picasa/iPhoto have more capabilities when it comes to photo editing and file management, they’re a tad too complex for what most people will be doing with Xee: quickly browsing through images as efficiently as possible before editing them with more powerful software.

Summary: Xee is a lightweight but feature-filled app perfect for browsing through huge collections of images. Whether you’re simply browsing through images you downloaded off the web or checking over the photos you shot in RAW before editing them in Photoshop, Xee has the capabilities to make every user happy.

Do you know of any other lightweight image browsers for OS X? If you prefer them to Xee, why? Let us know in the comments!